Monday, August 15, 2011

The American Community

Yes, whether I like it or not, I live in a community with Rick Perry, the people who bought the house across the street and stopped renovating it in the middle of things, the people who drive crazy on Cerillos Road, and all those people who will clog the streets during Indian Market.

There are various ways to define community - the immediate area around my house, my city, my state, my country, or even the world. But at whatever scale, it's in contrast to the free-market concept of the autonomous man [sic] that has been the basis for far too much discussion of society over the past thirty years.

A group of people living together have certain needs - transportation, garbage and sewage disposal, schooling of the children - that aren't well-served by markets. This has been proved over and over again, but thirty years ago, loud voices decided to ignore that.

The consequences of the triumph of autonomous man over society have included bridges that fall down under the weight of traffic, financial bubbles, excessive debt, the withering of the middle class, and a political party that is ready to destroy the country in order to save it.

But perhaps we're seeing a turnaround. Today one of that infinitely privileged class suggests that he and his fellow gazillionaires might pay some more taxes. A financial commentator observes that the support of Wall Street for the craziness of the Tea Party may be turning on Wall Street's interests.

It seemed bizarre to me that, after many months of hearing about how the long-term national debt must be solved NOW, with only a few commentators like Paul Krugman saying that the economy needed stimulation, after the debt-hostage austerity budget was passed, The Markets decided that Krugman was right. Or something. It may be that The Markets hold one opinion on odd-numbered days and the opposite on even-numbered. BTW, isn't it a bit silly to refer to The Markets as a sentient being?

Finally, a last little bit of hope left in the box. Edward Tenner looks at a last vestige of community, the Postal Service, semiprivatized by those free-marketers and still not a success, and decides that the connections it provides are important to all of us. Most people in America still don't have internet service and are dependent on the mail, more so in rural areas. Or, if we want to deep-six the Postal Service, maybe we should build an internet network to everywhere.

That would help to link us all together.

Update: Shortly after I wrote this post, it was announced that the federal stimulus legislation will provide for extending high-speed internet to several counties in rural Northern New Mexico via fiber optic lines. Good job!

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